MSF conducts meningitis A vaccination campaign in South Sudan

Médecins Sans Frontières recently collaborated with the South Sudanese Ministry of Health to vaccinate more than 130,000 people against meningitis A in South Sudan's Upper Nile state.

MSF teams began the campaign on May 15 in the northern city of Malakal in an effort to stop an meningitis A outbreak. The campaign used a vaccine first introduced a few years ago that will give the region's vulnerable population immunity that lasts longer than previous vaccines.

Meningitis A is a strain that is more likely than others to cause large scale epidemics.

"This vaccine protects people from meningitis A for ten years, seven more than the previous one," Olimpia de la Rosa, an MSF emergency medical coordinator, said.

The vaccination campaign was meant to stop an existing meningitis outbreak in the area and immunize individuals living in the so-called meningitis belt.

"Even if treated, some of those contracting the disease can be deaf or disabled for life, so vaccinating all these people was really important," de la Rosa said.

In just 10 days, MSF and the Ministry of Health immunized 133,633 people. There were 141 cases of meningitis A reported in the Upper Nile state since early April, including seven deaths.

The Ministry of Health plans to continue vaccination in other areas of the country until it covers all of South Sudan by 2014.

MSF has worked in the region that is now South Sudan since 1983, responding to emergencies like large-scale displacement, peaks of disease, alarming nutritional situations and refugee influxes. The international organization also provides primary and secondary healthcare services.